Australia’s young Super Rugby sides lack the law-bending smarts of Kiwi teams, according to Queensland Reds skipper Scott Higginbotham.
Former Wallaby Stephen Hoiles said Australian teams must “start cheating better” if they are to end a trans-Tasman losing streak that stretches 39 matches.
Higginbotham, who returns from injury in one of three Reds starting changes to face the Hurricanes on Friday, wasn’t as blunt as Hoiles but says the sentiment is spot-on.
Rather than criticise New Zealand teams for getting away with off-the-ball play the veteran loose forward wants his compatriots to adopt the same subtleties.
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“It has a bit to do with the playing age of a lot of the players,” Higginbotham said.
“Knowing exactly how to play the game, knowing where you can cut corners, where you can push the boundaries.”
Higginbotham says the Reds are an example of a team stacked with players not long out of school football.
Many have barely experienced the sometimes cynical learning ground of club rugby.
“You’ve got to put the time in on the field. You’ve got to watch a lot of football and see exactly what you can get away with,” he said.
“You can see the Kiwi sides are willing to push the envelope.”
However, Higginbotham wasn’t biting when asked about the appointment of New Zealand referee Ben O’Keeffe for the match in Wellington.
O’Keeffe was criticised for his control of last week’s Crusaders-Waratahs clash when the Kiwi side fought back from 29 points down to win.
They were helped when blatant foul play from prop Joe Moody was missed during the leadup to a try.
“If you’re a good enough side, you should win the game no matter what sort of referee you have,” Higginbotham said.
Former Wallaby Higginbotham was relieved to return after missing seven games this year – three to an early suspension and the last four with injury.
Other new faces in the starting side humbled 63-28 by the Sunwolves are midfield back Duncan Paia’aua and prop JP Smith.
Outside back Chris Feaui-Sautia makes way because of concussion while Wallabies loosehead James Slipper is omitted for undisclosed “welfare reasons”.
Queensland Reds: Hamish Stewart, Filipo Daugunu, Samu Kerevi, Duncan Paia’aua, Jordan Petaia, Jono Lance, Ben Lucas, Scott Higginbotham (c), George Smith, Angus Scott-Young, Kane Douglas, Izack Rodda, Taniela Tupou, Brandon Paenga- Amosa, JP Smith. Reserves: Andrew Ready, Sef Fa’agase, Ruan Smith, Harry Hockings, Liam Wright, Moses Sorovi, Izaia Perese, Aidan Toua.